Forbole Newsletter #3 – The Road to Giver

You will become more successful by helping others to succeed. An effective way to achieve this is to help people to seize opportunities. If more people choose to become a giver, a powerful community of givers will arise. This post suggested how this would work.

Whenever there is a community, no matter it is online or offline, there will be some kind of central authority to run it. But central authority tends to corrupt. I have cited a real life example how an offline business community could go wrong and how Forbole would solve this problem.

As we want to build an inclusive and diversified community of givers, the culture of our team should be the same. That’s why we need people who are different from us to join us.

And we are not alone. Institutions are now more concern about diversity. AppWorks is one of them. As a leading accelerator in South East Asia, they are now inviting blockchain/AI startups all over the world to join their next cohort. Diversity matters.

Unsplash Handshake

Referral Network should be Inclusive and Diversified

We have a lot of experiences in offline business organizations. We notice that those organizations are subject to corruption due to their centralized multi-layers business model which includes franchise and membership. This creates misalignment between the benefits of the central authorities (on the top of the pyramid) and the individual members of the organization. Luckily, we also see how decentralization and distributed ledger technology (eg. blockchain) can create a brand new kind of offline-to-online business organizations. I will dig it out piece by piece.

Some business organizations use a kind of exclusivity as a selling point. For example, they claim that in each of their smaller unit (eg. a chapter) only one member per business category can join the chapter. Let’s recall this graph on my first post of this series “The Giver Mindset on Forbole“:

FRN - Referral Community

It looks great! Now each member comes from a different profession and hence they will not compete with each other. For example, all the insurance-related referrals from the other eight members will go to the only member who is the insurance agent.

But this is just a gimmick for the top-tier franchise owners to sell the franchise to their downline. It provides the downline franchisees a good selling point to acquire members and earn the membership fee.

Exclusivity is an illusion.

Firstly, if the members are experienced networkers, they should have their own preferred choices of insurance agents or other service vendors. Unless there are stringent and enforceable rules, a business organization will not be able to force the members to treat each other as their sole or preferred choice of vendors. Secondly, being a member in an organization does not make you a reliable service provider. Will you choose a service provider just because he is belong to your organization, even you know he is not reliable?

We all have our own preferences.

This fake exclusivity does not worth its price (the membership fee and the time cost). Members should focus on building their personal brands and reputations, and help each other to spread the words out. To empower this, a business organization should be as inclusive as possible rather than exclusive. The more inclusive the organization is, the more diversified it members are and hence this can really help to spread the reputations of each quality members and help them to obtain more referrals.

To achieve this, a business organization need to manage both the offline and online presences by removing the hindrances to inclusion and diversity. Here are some measures we at Forbole Referral Network (“FRN”) will take:

1. Remove the concept of “chapter” which is static. Even children know how to make groups. Members of the organization will gradually and spontaneously form their own small groups according to their own characteristics, resources and needs. Groups need to be dynamic to cope with the rapid change of the business environment.

2. Remove the regular, frequent and boring meetings which are standardized with brainwash-style.

3. Focus on the commitment to the members, not the commitment to the centralized authorities.

4. Adopt an offline-online-offline approach to balance the need for real and authentic interaction (offline) and efficient virality (online).

5. Introduce a brand new business model by redefining members to become the owners of the community through the use of gift economy and decentralized governance powered by blockchain.

We will explain each of the above measures in more details later on.

(this article is subject to further modifications)

FRN - Referral Community

The Giver Mindset on Forbole

In Forbole Referral Network (“FRN”), givers are the people who are eager to help others to succeed. In the developers world, we have already seen the great development in free and open-source software, or FOSS community. We also see platform like Unsplash for people to share photos according to Creative Commons CC0. They are all generous givers.

In terms of business or career, we can also become a giver. But why should we become a giver in the first place? It is a simple maths. As a community, if we help each other to succeed, collectively all of us will have a higher successful rate. When A helps B to succeed, B will become more successful such that she has more resources to help C to succeed. Then C will be able to help A to become more successful.

Imagine a small community of three small businesses: an accountant, a designer and an insurance agent. Obviously they can become each other’s clients: the accountant and designer buy insurance from the agent, the agent and designer seek accounting services from the accountant, and the accountant and the agent seek marketing design services from the designer:

FRN - Referral Community

This is nice. But this is not big. What if each of them refer two business opportunities to one another from sources outside of this small community?

FRN - Referral Community

What if the new 6 people are each from different background and become part of this community?

FRN - Referral Community

So now this is a community of 9 people who actively refer suitable opportunities to each other. It just like each of them are now having a sales team of 8 people with business acumen and a strong giver mindset. One of our missions at FRN is to grow both the quantities and qualities of this community of givers such that the sole proprietors, small businesses and early-stage startups can rely on word-of-mouth referrals to obtain sales lead and tractions.

Polkadot World Map

Forbole is on Polkadot now!

Polkadot World Map
Polkadot World Map

Forbole is on Polkadot testnet now! Thanks to the generous referral and guidance by Melea! It seems like Greater China Region and the entire Southeast Asia have quite good potential!

Forbole Validating Polkadot
Forbole Validating Polkadot

Polkadot is a heterogeneous multi‑chain technology. It consists of many parachains with potentially differing characteristics which can make it easier to achieve anonymity or formal verification. Transactions can be spread out across the chains, allowing many more to be processed in the same period of time. Polkadot ensures that each of these blockchains remains secure and that any dealings between them are faithfully executed. Specialised parachains called bridges can be created to link independent chains. Let’s take a look how Dr. Gavin Wood, Co-founder of Polkadot made the introduction:

Deed of DID – Decentralization, Inclusion and Diversity

From the retweet on Twitter yesterday, I knew about Project Include which was co-founded by Ellen Pao, the ex-CEO of Reddit. Although I cannot say I agree 100% with their idea, inclusion and diversity are always the core values I want to pursue. When I read more posts by Project Include and Ellen Pao, I am inspired to think about how to integrate decentralization, inclusion and diversity.

May I call this the Deed of DID (Decentralization, Inclusion and Diversity)?

As you may know, we are building Forbole (ˈfɔːbəl) Blockchain, which is a blockchain designed for distributed reputation. Blockchain is just a state machine to facilitate application. Then what is the idea of our application? We decided to build Forbole Referral Network, because we think word-of-mouth referral can empower the underrepresented talents. In fact, as a graduate with mediocre academic performance, I was able to get a job offer from a bluechip banking group amidst the economic downturn in 2004 thanks to a referral by a lecturer who spotted my potential the transcript couldn’t tell.

Just as Ellen Pao said, we may have taken some actions that inactivated inclusion and diversity without knowing them. I see that a sound decentralized governance model may help to protect and foster inclusion and diversity. The product of decentralization, inclusion and diversity is permissionless:

Forbole - Deed of DID
The product of decentralization, inclusion and diversity is permissionless.

Our purpose at Forbole is to empower people. We would like to fight against the internet tyranny dictated by the elites. Our solution is to introduce a decentralized business model for social networks, and Forbole Referral Networks is our first experiment. Besides all the dense technical stuff, our own startup culture need to be decentralized enough. Culture is built by people.

As suggested by Ellen Pao, “When it comes to creating diverse teams, the sooner the better.“. So the best time to build our diverse team is now! We need to build a team of contributors from various backgrounds other than our existing team. The roles we need include but not limited to advisors, evangelists, developers, designers and content creators. We prefer remote freelancers at the moment. We can design remuneration in equity, fiat and tokens. To avoid breaching the regulations, we better state our own backgrounds instead of stating the opposite explicitly:

  • Both co-founders are males;
  • Both co-founders are Chinese;
  • Both co-founders are native Cantonese speakers;
  • Both co-founders are from Hong Kong;
  • Both co-founders are right-handed;

May I say that the contributors with backgrounds other than the above are preferred?

Forbole Newsletter #2 – A Year Of Change

A year ago, we wrote Forbole has been born (officially).

Wow! We have changed a lot in this exciting year. In the first Forbole Annual Letter, we talked about ICO hype, the USD8,500 tour (that we have not joined), “outright scam” and the grassroots movement we are initiating.

Grassroots is everywhere, and hence Forbole will be a stateless project. In fact, I am finalizing this newsletter in Taipei, Taiwan. We hope to explore the blockchain space in different cities.

Forbole Annual Letter 2018 – A grassroots movement

Put aside the difficult terminology and technical discussions of blockchain, let’s talk about what the technology means as a grassroots movement.

A year of change

It has been a year of rapid advancement for us at Forbole. We have evolved and dealt with change, and even our pitch deck has been revised from time to time.

However what we know is that human nature has not and will never change. It starts with greed and ends with fear.

ICO hype

Looking back to Nov 2017, people were lost in the hype surrounding ICO’s. It was thought that ICO’s would fundamentally disrupt traditional startup financing. However we soon learned that we were wrong. What ICO’s in fact created were new kinds of intermediaries and centralizations, which set a high barrier for startups trying to access the ICO ecosystem.

The unavoidable truth of this time is that information asymmetry creates intermediaries. Intermediaries will evolve into centralized authorities. This evolution is inevitable regardless of the underlying technology, no matter if it is block-chain or block-rope. To make matters worse, blockchain has created a large information asymmetry due to its inherent difficulty. The result is a hotbed of scams and industry spam. Suddenly countless people have become “crypto investors”, “ICO experts”, “family office” investors and “venture capitalists”.

Luckily for us, two core messages could be pulled from this that helped keep us on track.


In early September of this year, a friend told me there was a 5-day tour being organized in mainland China. Participants would be given the opportunity to connect with various famous VCs. The fee? Not cheap. USD8,500 per person. The tour didn’t even disclose the names of the representatives for those VCs. I had no idea of the potential ROI for this trip, but one thing I knew for sure was that I didn’t have the money. We already had a trip planned to Shanghai in the same month. Despite my friend’s opinion that the cost was in fact cheap when compared with other similar events in the crypto space, I gently declined applying for that tour.

During the Shanghai trip, we directly connected with the co-founders and key people in some of the leading blockchain projects such as Cosmos, IRISnet and Polkadot. We also connected directly with some of the most well known VCs in the crypto space, some of which were even listed in the above USD8,500 tour.

I finally came to the realization that crypto hype has twisted people’s minds. Startups are asked to pay large sums of money for just a small chance (not even a guarantee) of getting in front of the right people who have access to funds. This is akin to farmers in the Middle Ages who were forced to pay tariffs just to enter the castle to sell wheat.

What’s really striking to me is that people think this is normal.

“Outright scams”

Here’s the second message: A friend tried to refer us to another potential angel investor – before we even had the chance to send our deck, our friend delivered the investor’s reply: “These are all outright scams. Don’t waste my time.”

Honestly, I thought this was a reasonable response. People should be skeptical: No tractions, no finished product. That’s it. Period. (Later I found out that the angel investor was a bitcoin maximalist – lesson learnt.)

Back on track

Why do people think that paying a considerable intermediary fee is normal? Why do people think all these projects are scams? While seemingly negative, these experiences have in fact helped us clear our minds and focus on our mission. Our initiative is to disrupt the centralized business models of social networks. We need to first disrupt ourselves through a ground-up movement, a grassroots movement.

Most startups fail because the founders quit. Founders quit mostly because they are starving. With two co-founders that have a combined skill set of coding, hardware, design, coaching, finance, marketing and sales, all we need is to survive long enough to gain tractions and hit our targeted growth metrics. To accomplish this, we have hit some key milestones:

  1. Raised funds from individuals again
  2. Restructured the business of previous venture to provide passive income
  3. Assembled a team of talented professionals to moonlight for us
  4. Explored the opportunity of becoming validators (Cosmos and Polkadot, then Tezos & IRISnet)

The above measures provide us with a 12-18 month runway. We will also earn validation income once those mainnets have launched. As Adam Draper of Boost VC put it, be the nuclear cockroach.

Big Dipper  – Lead you the way to explore the Cosmos

We are excited to announce the launch of the Big Dipper (beta), a Cosmos explorer, and it is also our contesting project for Cosmos HackAtom 3: The Validator Series.

The Big Dipper is an opensource explorer tool to monitor the status of any Cosmos compatible blockchain using the BPoS. We aim to provide a better user experience with nearly real-time response to show different information and metrics in different aspects regarding the network. We utilize different endpoints from Tendermint, Cosmos SDK and the Command Line Interface to aggregate data into a single web interface.

Governance proposal details being updated on the Big Dipper in a very short time.

Currently, the Big Dipper offers the following features.

  1. Monitor the consensus status of the network
  2. View blocks created time and number of transactions
  3. Monitor the change of validating power
  4. Show short term uptime and latest seen time of validators
  5. Track proposals creation, details and status update
  6. Easy to switch colour theme with any Bootstrap CSS themes.

We do not stop here. We keep enhancing the Big Dipper to show more information about the Cosmos. Features on user registration, status alerts, WebSocket event subscription on transactions, Prometheus metrics integration, etc. will be available very soon. Stay tuned.

You are welcome to give us feedbacks and fork the project to run with your blockchains. Please visit the project Github.

My stupid idea: cross holding using SAFE amongst a group of startups

I have just discussed a little bit about using Simple Agreement for Future Equity (“SAFE”) in Hong Kong in a chat group of startups.

This led me to another crazy idea: what if in a group of (eg. 10) startups, each startup invests US$1K to all the other 9 startups? so each startup will make a total investment of US$9K and at the same time receive US$9K from 9 investors.

Uncapped SAFE with a moderate discount

We are startups. Let’s minimize legal cost. Use SAFE (of course!). To avoid endless discussion of valuation cap, make it uncapped with a moderate discount, how about 20%?

10 startups, 9 investors, 45 connections

So, without actually spending or receiving new money, each startup in this group will have 9 strategic investors.

According to Metcalfe’s Law, we know that a group of 10 startups will have 45 connections. What if we make it 20 startups instead? 190 connections.

30 startups

What if we make it 30 startups? There will be 435 connections.

Let’s be aggressive, make it 30 startups. What if each of them can get 5 new investors from family and friends? There will be 150 investors each invests directly and indirectly in a portfolio of 30 startups.

What if each of them on average has 3 team members? There will be 90 people. This is a portfolio of 30 companies, 90 people, 150 external investors with mutual interest.

With this group of startups, maybe we can ask for a discount from business centres, coworking spaces, lawyers, accountants, restaurants… … wait, why don’t we also include business centres, coworking spaces, lawyers, accountants, restaurants in this portfolio as well?

Bootstrap a decentralized professional network like Bitcoin


Reading the whitepaper of Bitcoin always makes you contented and joyful. You will learn not only blockchain but the way how to write in such a precise and fat-free style.

Another magic of Bitcoin that has made it so glamorous to me is the way it has bootstrapped its chain together with its community. That is such a perfect application of proof-of-work. It also demonstrates the meaning of trustless.

Implied trust

I am a beneficiary of word-of-mouth referral. At Forbole, we are interested to see whether the trust we implied during the referral process can have more usage: is that some kind of “work” or “stake”?

Trust cannot be revealed by our words. We show that we trust someone or something through our actions. Actions always need us to spend energy (i.e. sacrifice something) to perform.

One of the convincing ways to say we trust some people is by recommending them to someone else. A more convincing way is to refer them to business or career opportunities offered by other people that we trust.

The question we want to answer: is that safe to say Person A trusts Person B as Person A has referred Person B to work for Person C, who has shown mutual trust with Person A as well?

Here’s my favourite part: What if Person A to record this referral together with the relationships among these three people on blockchain? Are the properties such as immutability, verification and governance make the trust implied from this referral more convincing?

If Person B has obtained more and more of this “record”, can you trust Person B even you don’t know Person A and Person C?

Why would Person A need to do it? What the reward and cost for this? Why would Person C want to be mentioned or disclosed?

Bootstrap this network of relationships

So we plan to use our own stories to bootstrap Forbole Referral Network (“FRN”), which is a decentralized professional network with a focus on referral of opportunities. FRN will by the first application on Forbole Blockchain.

Is that possible to start with something like genesis block of Bitcoin? I have tried to review some of the referrals I have received and made, and the networking effect they have caused in my life. This is like a meditation. You should try it, or do it on the upcoming beta of FRN.

Poor drawing by Terence Lam

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